June 30, 2014

Closure of specialist brain injury units causes concern

Laura Jackson, member of the Chartered Institute for Legal Execs, in our specialist Brain Injury team, discusses what can be done.

Cause for concern

Brain injury is often described as the ‘hidden disability’: outwardly an individual who has sustained a brain injury can appear perfectly well. In fact, following a brain injury, specialist rehabilitation and treatment is essential in helping brain injured individuals get their lives back on track. The brain injury charity Headway note that it is estimated that between 10,000 and 20,000 people sustain a severe traumatic brain injury per year in the UK. Of this huge number, sadly only some go on to receive the rehabilitation they need to be able to cope when they are discharged back into the community. There are fears that in the future even fewer will receive appropriate rehabilitation as specialist units across the country are closing.

Close to Withy King’s Bath offices is The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (“The Min”). The Min’s specialist brain injury unit closed in March 2013.  Closure of specialist brain injury units is a worrying trend across the UK and a cause for concern for all those in this predicament.

In Glasgow for instance, at the end of June, the City Council will be withdrawing funding for a vital rehabilitation support group which provides a specialist programme for those who have suffered a head or brain injury, leaving no other programme of its kind in that area.

A multi-disciplinary therapy approach is generally required following a severe brain injury and most professionals work within head injury teams in rehabilitation units. The availability of these therapists and the amount and type of help they can offer not only depends on the range of problems an individual has, but also where that individual lives.

The likely treatment path for an individual who has sustained a severe brain injury and who lives in an area where there is a specialist unit is as follows: Injury -> Paramedics -> A&E ->Intensive Care Unit -> Hospital ward -> Inpatient at rehabilitation unit ->Home / Outpatient at rehabilitation unit with ongoing treatment (which may include neuro-rehabilitation, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy etc.) -> Possible return to work and independent living.

In stark contrast, the likely path for an individual who has sustained a severe brain injury and who lives in an area where there is no specialist unit is: Injury -> Paramedics -> A&E -> Intensive Care Unit -> Hospital ward -> Home -> GP.

What can be done?

Raising awareness of how crucial appropriate rehabilitation is following a head injury is one step that can be taken. Those who have no rehabilitation option in their area, are often left in the hands of their GP; Headway is working hard to get as many GPs as possible to sign the Headway pledge, acknowledging the complex and often hidden effects of brain injury and pledging to do all they can to help those affected.

A minority of head injury victims are able to make a compensation claim. Specialist lawyers can work with insurance companies to ensure the appropriate rehabilitation is put in place. Contact Withy King’s Brain Injury team for specialist legal advice and we will assist in arranging for appropriate rehabilitation and therapy.

If you would like further advice or wish to speak with a specialist legal adviser, please call on 01225 730222 or email [email protected].

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